Sasse Vision Talks: America’s Political Parties Suffer a ‘Crisis of Political Vision’

College students are talking about robots and the role they will play in America’s future. The political parties are fighting over whether to make America Europe again or make America 1950 again.

No wonder young people are largely disinterested in the debate in Washington, concluded Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb.

“Neither of these (conversations) is very interesting,” Sasse said recently, telling an audience in Washington, D.C., that the major political parties in America would be considered failed enterprises if looked at from a business perspective.

“Both parties have a massive vision problem about what we need to accomplish in our time and place,” he said.  This problem is “a crisis of political vision that flows partly from the fact that we have two exhausted political parties right now. We have a conversation in Washington that is really stultifying relative to the vibrancy and vitality of the American people and relative to the magnitude of the challenges we face right now, and what really needs to be accomplished in our time,” Sasse said.

Sasse was speaking during the latest Vision Talks, a series of conversations convened by the American Enterprise Institute that puts together Washington policy insiders with social entrepreneurs, non-profits, and other enterprising organizations outside the Beltway.

Sasse described the other contributors to the most recent series of Vision Talks, including two men whose organizations help ex-inmates and disabled people find work, and a small business owner who challenged her state government to change the licensing requirements for hair braiders, as “heroic” in their efforts to live freely and independently while contributing to their communities.

These types of people and organizations are looking outside of Washington to create solutions that honor the dignity of all the natural rights of everybody, American ideals that are close to being extinguished if the political parties can’t change their respective directions, he said.

Noting a Pew research study that found that 203 of the 230 largest metro areas in the nation — containing 75 percent of the U.S. population — have a shrinking middle class, Sasse said America’s political parties aren’t up to the task of laying down a vision for the future because they look at the new information economy using the lens of politics relevant to the industrial era.

Republicans “are suffering from a declining customer base, because root core Republican voters are dying. The Democrats don’t have the same customer base problem, but they have a massive product problem because the Democrats are still trying to pretend that if you just expand 1965 entitlement programs and the chassis of the federal government from 50 and 51 years ago, that somehow this is only three tinkers away from being a working system. It’s not true. The Democrats are trying to sell central planning in the age of Uber,” Sasse said.

The presidential candidates aren’t explaining to young people, the post-industrialist up and comers, solutions to address job market prospects in a rapidly changing economy.

“Jobs that are routinize-able, if that’s a word, and predictable, those jobs are going to become more and more rapidly disintermediated and disrupted. We’re going to need to create a completely different kind of conversation than we’ve ever had before, and our politics are not really up to that level of disruptive conversation.”

Fortunately, Sasse said, all is not lost. America still has a lot to offer, and it’s up to the people to take the opportunity during this upheaval to form the future.

“The distinction between politics and culture is really important. There’s a lot that’s broken in our politics, but there’s a lot about our culture that’s still hopeful. and there’s a lot to dream about and lot to try to recover, and culture is well upstream of politics. Politics is downstream from culture.”

Watch the entirety of Sasse’s remarks in AEI’s Vision Talks.